Comments: Cathedral Statistics 2013

So for 42 cathedrals,assuming they each have just one midweek service every week, I make that 15,000 divided by 42 cathedrals divided by 52 weeks equals 6.8 people per cathedral per week.

Well, I'm glad that in the last ten years it's gone up from 3.4, but it's not exactly driving church growth in the C of E, is it?

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 4:40pm GMT

OK, my apologies all, I should have read the stats, not just the C of E summary. The C of E summary is very misleading, makes it sound as if 15,000 is the total midweek attendance for the whole year, rather than the average attendance per week, which is of course a much more impressive figure. Again, my apologies.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 5:58pm GMT

As I suspected, yet another good year for Cathedrals, which are proving far more effective as places of primary mission than most parish churches. The combination of space, anonymity, quality of liturgy, music and preaching; and the general absence of the 'cringe' factor is what makes these attractive centres of encounter with God for so many people. So... when is the Archbishops' Council, the Commissioners and the General Synod going to start recognising this with more realistic funding to support not only a dean and two canons; but also the musical foundations, more rigorous and imaginative theological enterprises which connect with wider cultural life, and encouraging them as centres of liturgical formation?

Posted by Simon R at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 8:20pm GMT

Most cathedrals offer worship several times, each day of the week.

Posted by Laurie at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 9:31pm GMT

Whilst I applaud any Christian growth figures may I offer some observations:

First, cathedrals offer what Grace Davie the social scientist would describe as 'believing without belonging'. No strings, concert like atmosphere, beautiful building, no commitment necessary - all for a small donation in the collection plate.

Secondly, from the parish point of view, cathedrals are often seen as elitist, sucking the life out of parishes, particularly when they are in the same city.

True some cathedrals are desperately trying to avoid being seen in this light but I'm sorry that Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, has said: “Patterns of church attendance are different now. Cathedrals are uniquely placed to be providing greater opportunities for worship and that includes during the week.”

Greater opportunities I suppose than struggling parishes might offer at the sharp end of the secular and other faith world?

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 10:20pm GMT

So an answer for growth is radically prune back the number of churches, select some churches to be 'as if' cathedrals in their presentation with their joined-together parishes, make them all somewhat more anonymous in reception (the show goes on regardless) and so leave people who come in alone. If people want to be part of the production team, that's their own initiative.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 3:17am GMT

I don't want to be cynical, but I'd be interested to see a comparison between those cathedrals that charge for entry and those who don't. I'm sure it's not beyond the odd canny tourist to say they're going to evensong when in fact they're just trying to avoid paying to get in. As more cathedrals have charged for entrance, it wouldn't be surprising to find an increase in these 'worshippers'.

Concerned Anglican - agree over the impact on parish churches, the Anecdote to Evidence report found that 70% of the growth in Cathedral attendance was in transfers from other churches. However, it also found that 'anonymity' was much further down the list than people thought. The main thing was the quality of worship and atmosphere, which of course 99% of parish churches can't match, and shouldn't try to.

Posted by David Keen at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 8:02am GMT

Like Concerned Anglican I am grateful for any signs of growth but wonder what exactly these numbers are presumed to be a sign of and how we know? More precisely, since this is about Christian faith, how do we find in them measures of growth in discipleship, commitment to Christ and to life in local communities of faith? Without doubting the sincerity of those counted here, patterns of self selecting, post-church spiritualities are a feature of our times.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 8:53am GMT

Do we know whether those extra people attending Cathedral services are new or returning Christians, or whether they are moving away from their own parishes? Is this an actual boost in figures or just a switch?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 8:59am GMT

I really don't understand what is wrong with believing without belonging. Readinging 'Spritual Capital' and the subsequent paper on Cathedral growth it is precisely this aspect of attendance which attracts new worshipers who know that they wil not be asked to sign up to either a particular sort of dogma nor the coffee rota. And it is precisely these new worshipers who after a time come to offer themselves as volunteers in the myriad ways available because they haven't been pressured into making a commitment as soon as they appear. The Church isn't or should not be like a double glazing salesman pressurising the hapless into making decisions and expenditure they will live to regret and from which it may be difficult to extricate themselves.

Concerned Anglicans cynicism is unfortunate, it belittles those who are seeking and it underestimates their needs, it reduces worship to the level of a concert for which only a token payment is regarded as sufficient.

As for 'sucking the life out of parishes' there is very little evidence of this. Most people coming new to cathedral worship are worshiping anywhere for the first time, have moved to the area and chosen the Cathedral as their place of worship or have some other connection with it. A significant number worship in both their own parish church and the Cathedral. Setting the Cathedral up in opposition to the parish is unhelpful and divisive.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 9:35am GMT

If York Minster did not keep museum hours and allowed people to go in free at any time, far more would enter just to sit and contemplate for a while - up to 9 pm .Sadly it has really ceased to be primarily a place of worship..

Posted by Jean Mayland (Revd) at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 11:06am GMT

Jean, we are open 0700 to 1900 daily and welcome without charge those who come simply to pray or light a candle. We invite all those who come 'to discover God's love' and are overt about our primary role. As numbers at daily worship continue to increase, I find what you write both inaccurate and unjust.
Chapter has recently reviewed its charging policy (after 10 years) and, with great regret, decided we had to continue to charge those from outside the city and diocese. We keep this policy under review, but upkeep and restoration costs are now £2.5 million a year and without this income (and knowing the size of donation at cathedrals which do not charge) we would no longer be able to welcome visitors safely.

Posted by viv faull at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 2:00pm GMT

As a regular, but non-English and non-Anglican, member of the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church (Oxford), I am surprised how downbeat are most of the comments on this thread. Cathedral Choral Evensong is a glory of English heritage comparable to, say, the National Gallery. Isn't it?

Posted by iain mclean at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 2:29pm GMT

Do I detect in David Runcorn and Concerned Anglican's responses more than a bit of 'oh yes, but it's not real Christianity...'? The view that says unless people are signing on the dotted line and fit in to neatly and narrowly defined categories of 'discipleship' it's not authentic, is becoming something of a cliché. It's very myopic - though hardly surprising.

Jean Mayland wants York Minster open until 9pm. She should know better than most how much that would cost in staff overtime - and she also knows it has always opened at 7am and stays open for an hour after the end of Evensong, which is longer than any museum (or parish church) I know.

Posted by James at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 2:35pm GMT

I note with much pride that Durham cathedral, the greatest cathedral on planet earth, does not charge for admission. Long may the remain the case.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 6:49pm GMT

I agree with Viv Faull's comment about maintenance costs and entrance fees - these are vast Grade I listed buildings we're talking about! I am not a Christian and have no intention of becoming one but enjoy being a 'museum' visitor at cathedrals. A charge of, say, £10 compares favourably with the entrance fee at country houses - and no-one expects to get into them for nothing.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 6:56pm GMT

These theme parks with their amazing buildings and spectacular music are in a class and world of their own. ......... with one or two exceptions they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth and the God he so passionately reveals
They are about as close to revealing the truth of our faith as the Maundy money is to explaining the Christ who washes our feet ..........

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 7:27pm GMT

The York charging policy sounds very sensible, if people from the area are still able to use the place for free then that seems like a good compromise with the realities of paying the bills. Is that normal practice in other cathedrals too?

Posted by David Keen at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 8:04pm GMT

James No not at all. I live in a Cathedral Close and love the moments I can pray alone there. I don't want to crowd anyone else's journey either. I was asking a serious question. Any thoughts on it rather than suggesting my faith is a myopic cliche?
Why assume, with Richard Ashby, that the only alternative to 'believing without belonging' must be a crude, narrow, in-your-face way of church with all the tasteless, intrusiveness of double glazing marketing?
If those 'believing without belonging' are to still find places for unhasselled, personal reflection it does of course require others to be doing the belonging as an expression of believing or there won't be anywhere. So we still need each other actually.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 9:30pm GMT

I have been a member of the Rochester congregation for 20 odd years now. I'm a welcomer, a steward and on the coffee rota. We are still free to visitors.. We are a close knit congregation but offer a warm welcome to visitors and new worshipers. We are known to be a Cathedral with a parish church feel. We average about 200 for the Sunday Eucharist and a lot of people come to the Cathedral because we offer a more traditional service than some churches in our area. We also have a thriving Sunday club ranging in ages from toddlers to teenagers. We are not anonymous and care about the people here as friends.

Posted by Eileen Coleman (Mrs.) at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 10:32pm GMT

Cathedrals can offer transcendent space, music, and art as well as heightened liturgy. They are a place of art and history as well as worship-- it's a both/and, not an either/or.

If you really believe that all are welcome, then that should include people who don't want to jump in with both feet, who want the anonymity, or just a passerby seeking a moment of grace on a busy day. So what if some coming to evensong are evading the fee? They are at evensong and you can't know what they get out of it. And yes, @Iain, it is one of the great pieces of English heritage.

last spring we visited York and enjoyed the Cathedral one day as tourists (for which we were glad to pay our pounds) and one day regular attendees on Palm Sunday. It seems to us that Dean Faull has pulled off quite a good balancing act on the multiple needs and opportunities of that great and inspiring space.

Posted by IT at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 11:03pm GMT

For the record, I have surely enjoyed worshipping at Bristol Cathedral when in town. The music and liturgy are good, the sermons are regularly excellent, the people are really nice. It's open during the week for contemplation, and lunch at the little coffee shop, which is awesome, as it is also next to the Central Library. It's free, but has a big donation box that is voluntary.

I find it a lovely home away from home. They seem to be working on mission, with some outreach projects. I didn't completely follow, but they are committed to being a meaningful presence in the community and I think there's a WWI project going on.

I think Bristol does a terrific job of making their cathedral feel like a parish, in terms of friendliness and welcome, while maintaining terrific music from their choir school. During the Eucharist, one can go to a side chapel for extra prayers. A lovely feature, especially when one is far from home and something goes wrong.

I found God there. I can't speak to whether it takes life from parishes. It seems that with declining numbers, there are problems there beyond competition. I have to say, a lot of people connect to God via the music and liturgy, and if it's hard for a parish to make good liturgy and music, I think it might be hard to thrive… I've worshipped in some of your very rural churches, and there it seems like community holds them together (more than perhaps liturgy and music), but the folks seem to be getting older…

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 7:04am GMT

In this context, one wonders how true is the statement of a one-time archbishop of Canterbury, that "The Church is the only human organisation that exists not for its own sake but for the sake of others". May this not extend to our places of worship as well as our exercise of ministry? And who knows whose heart and mind might not be 'strangely warmed' by a 'lived-in' atmosphere of worship?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 8:10am GMT

There's a very good blog post by Kelvin Holdsworth about this here:

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 9:21am GMT

Martin Reynolds should read Kelvin Holdsworth's blog about cathedrals after (what reads like) uninformed and trite generalisation. See

I write as someone who has recently being getting in to my car to drive to worship at a cathedral 20 miles away because what passes for worship at the local parish church is not just irksome and condescending, it is a travesty of any broadly accepted definition of worship - and all under the guise of "The Parish Eucharist."

I just wonder when Martin last worshipped regularly in one of these God-sends in the midst of so much mediocrity?

Posted by Simon R at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 11:48am GMT

I've been giving David Runcorn's response some thought, because I think there are some interesting issues behind his invitation to make some suggestions about how 'discipleship' can be expressed in relation to the growth being experienced by cathedrals. For some, they may be just places to 'pop in to' to light a candle or find some quiet space. But anyone who works in one, or worships in one, will tell you their real value is along these lines...

First, given that many English cathedrals were monastic foundations prior to the Reformation, are we saying that a ministry grounded in offering excellence in worship (and making it easier for the un-churched to have an opportunity for a chance encounter the rhythm of the church's daily liturgy in an unforced way) has no mission value? Is the Opus Dei central to Christian witness or is it just a bolt-on to the more 'valuable' (and calculable) business of Messy Church, the Youth Club and the Alpha Course?

Second, are we saying that a ministry of hospitality, where seekers and enquirers, pilgrims and tourists, are given time and space (whether it's a few hours or a life-time) to discover the deeper realities of God's being, through art, word, music and architecture, is not enabling authentic discipleship?

Third, are we saying that the commitment cathedrals have to education and engagement with wider culture, through lectures, focus-groups, and relationships with higher education institutions, which ensure that matters of faith are given a high profile in public life, not authentic discipleship? Go to a cathedral like Durham, count up the number of 18-25 year olds at the Sunday Eucharist - and then ask how many ordinands have emerged - you begin to get a sense of why cathedrals, with their humane and intelligent approach to faith, attract disproportionately more younger worshippers when many parish churches repel them.

Fourth, are we saying that the large numbers of young families worshipping at cathedrals (because there are children in the choir and involved in other music-making and liturgical activities)has no mission value? Or are we Calvinists of the Jeremy Begbie variety, who say that, ultimately, music has no intrinsic value of its own, has no revelatory character, but is only valuable as a servant of the scriptural word? Again, I have lost count of the number of choristers who have been ordained (or are offering themselves for ordination) because of the formative experience of singing the daily liturgy.

Fifth, cathedrals are growing (like Charismatic congregations) because they offer an 'experience' and people emerge feeling that they have worshipped. Ok, I know many parish churches cannot hope to put on a Mass by Mozart or MacMillan every Sunday (or have a professional worship band and all the technological wizardry that goes with it); but what Cathedrals offer is a model of absolute professionalism in the public sphere - and that's what makes the opposite so grating in numerous parish churches. Too many clergy, organists, readers and intercessors come over as rank amateurs who seem to be constantly 'tripped up' by what they need to do on Sundays.

If clergy in parishes, and those contributing to the worship in parishes, had more confidence in the tradition in which they stand, were better prepared, and gave the impression that the worship of God is the most important thing any human being can do, we might not be asking why cathedrals are doing so well while parish churches are in decline. Nor would so many people be driving in to their nearest cathedral city to worship at the cathedral, because it's the only place they can be assured of a quality experience.

Posted by James at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 2:23pm GMT

And Simon R. should reflect on Paul's wise words in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 before he judges 'what passes for worship in the local parish church'. No doubt there was a lot of mediocrity in the people Paul was describing in that passage, but God chose them anyway, and on the last day they will be judged by their faith and love, not their liturgical excellence.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 4:28pm GMT

I am sorry Simon R finds what I say dull and overused.
Apart from three glorious years living in the shadow of Salisbury's great spire 40 year ago my experience is thin.

But my comment wasn't aimed at the fantastic people who work at these places nor at those who worship there, though one of the contributors here could benefit from reading another excellent piece by Kelvin on the "V" word, and I can't help feeling akin to Tim.
It was about something more foundational than that, perhaps some might be generous enough to think it was a deeper reflection on what these building say - or don't say and how the prestige, power and deference they embody might have little or nothing to do with the good news of Jesus.
Even if we are hearing good news!
I am glad to say that from private emails some found my comment challenged them helpfully.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 7:03pm GMT

"Too many clergy, organists, readers and intercessors come over as rank amateurs who seem to be constantly 'tripped up' by what they need to do on Sundays." (James)

I am very torn in my responses to the comments on this thread. I think it is great that Cathedrals are providing something that a large number of people clearly value and want, and I wouldn't want to cast any doubt on their ministry. As a parish priest, however, I am profoundly disturbed by the idea that they can somehow show us (parish priests) how it should be done. The reality is that while I try to do the very best job I can in my little semi-rural parish (the only priest, and technically part-time), I am having to fill an enormous range of tasks; from graveyard administration (and maintenance sometimes) to children's work, to school governing, to community engagement, to nurturing faith, to worship planning, to preaching, to replacing light bulbs and shifting furniture. Of course there are others in the church community to whom I delegate things, but there simply isn't the pool of people that a cathedral can call on (often paid professionals as well as volunteers who really want to be there, rather than having had their arms twisted because no one else would help). I can't possibly have the competencies to do all the roles expected, but I still have to do them anyway if there is no one else. It's not so much about being a "one-person band" but we do need to be able to play all the instruments!
It is unrealistic to expect that any parish priest could do all these things and do them as well as they might be done in a cathedral, and my guess is that if you put a member of a cathedral team in a church like mine they would soon flounder.
If it were just about "what we need to do on Sundays" it would be a simple matter, but the things we have to do Monday to Saturday are bound, at least sometimes, to get in the way of that, so there will be times when we come to worship with our heads full of the problems with the gutters. I am sure that Cathedral clergy also have much else on their minds when they lead worship, but they do at least know that the vergers, or maintenance staff, or music directors are responsible for the other stuff.
The job of a parish priest simply is different from that of a priest in a Cathedral, and, yes, there is going to be an element of "rank amateurishness" about it, because in some parts of the job we are amateurs, and these are the parts that will take up disproportionate amounts of time, energy and worry, because we don't know how to do them.
What we have to hope is that in all of this, people will find themselves welcomed and loved to the best of our ability in the ways that are possible for us with our resources. After all Jesus said that it was our love which would show people that we were his disciples...

Posted by Anne 2 at Friday, 28 November 2014 at 8:25am GMT

I take Tim Chesterton's point. But, as the Bishop of Exeter told his Diocesan Synod a few weeks ago, superficiality is the scourge of our age. As I am discovering, it is alive and well at churches near me (and you, I suspect) - no matter how creatively we exegete 1 Cor 1. 26-29!

Posted by Simon R at Friday, 28 November 2014 at 5:25pm GMT

James Thank you for your response to my question about what is actually being measured in this discussion and how we know. I have to say that as a former parish priest and now working in the training and development of those in ministry I fully sympathise with Anne’s response to what you wrote. I think it not only unfair but actually completely inappropriate to hold up Cathedrals as role models, sitting in judgement over for local parish churches.
Cathedrals have larger staffs than local churches can afford. They are paid more and regarded as ‘senior’ – more gifted? – than parish clergy. They have larger paid support staff, vergers and administrative staff. They attract the attention of wealthy ‘friends’ and benefactors. Given all this the evidence of recorded growth might not only be unremarkable, we might ask why it is not greater? One measure of growth the CofE has always used confirmations. A measure of growth I would take seriously is a comparison of confirmation candidate nos. at Cathedrals each year compared with local churches, working with far fewer resources?

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 28 November 2014 at 9:01pm GMT

Thank you, David. Anne's response is indeed a very fair reflection of what most parish clergy find themselves burdened with in parishes - despite the lack of requirement for them to do so in the Canons or the Ordinal. Perhaps that's where clergy training officers should be more proactive in challenging this.

But I'm baffled as to why you seem unwilling to engage with the question of how Cathedrals are offering a valid expression of Christian discipleship. Thankfully, someone who has spent half his ministerial life working in a cathedral has done so in recent days. See

Posted by James at Tuesday, 2 December 2014 at 10:34am GMT

James. Greetings. You should be baffled since that is not my position at all! All I am asking for is a more careful reflection on the numbers and how we discern what they are actually reflecting. I think Cathedrals are very particular expressions of church, ministry and mission. Statistics need narratives if they are to be read on more than pie charts. This last week's Church Times editorial was asking for the same I think, and said it better than me.
As for local clergy and their ongoing training and support you seem quite unaware of just how much is running in the dioceses'. I was a diocesan training officer myself for a time and I now travel around a good many such courses nationally. There is loads going on, but there are no blueprints either - least of all 'do it like Cathedrals'. This is about partnerships not role modelling.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 2 December 2014 at 3:20pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.